Meet Your Volunteer Firefighter
Posted September 20, 2016 at 5:49 am by Tim Dustrude
Gilbert Venegas is one of the newest members of San Juan Island Fire & Rescue, but not really. He originally joined San Juan Island Fire & Rescue in 2010; moved off-island for a few years and as of February 2016, he is back to the department for good.
This is Gilbert’s story in a nutshell:
After graduating high school in north county San Diego, Gilbert decided to dedicate his education to becoming a career fire fighter.
He attended Palomar Community College majoring in Fire Science & EMT programs. He moved to San Juan Island and joined SJIF&R to gain some on-the-job experience. Gilbert was able to hone his skills by taking the wildlands and structural fire fighting classes here. He did go back to San Diego every couple of months to see family and friends.
It was on one such visit, New Year’s Eve 2011, when he met his wife to be, Kelsey. He decided to stay in San Diego and put himself through EMT school. They moved to Las Vegas in late 2012 to focus on Kelsey’s job and took the opportunity to save up money for their wedding at Roche Harbor.
After their wedding, they moved back to San Diego where Gilbert was hired by a local ambulance company. After a year, he was accepted into San Pasqual Reservation Fire Academy where he attended classes for twelve hours a day, six days a week, lasting four months. Upon graduating from SPRFA he received 32 individual fire certifications, some being internationally recognized. Gilbert was also honored as a squad leader.
In February of this year, he and Kelsey came back to the Island to attend Chief Steve Marler’s memorial service and after falling in love with San Juan Island all over again, made the decision to move here permanently .
“When you find something that you love to do, it is not work”, Gilbert says. He is assigned to Station 31 and absolutely loves Monday night drill and community outreach events. “It’s great teaching the elementary school children how to Stop, Drop & Smother — so much fun.” He especially likes rope rescue and vehicle extrication. Wildland fires are hard work but he loves it so doesn’t feel like its hard work!
He spent several years getting back here to the Island but Gilbert, Kelsey and their dogs Chewbacca and Kai are so glad they made it.
San Juan Island Fire & Rescue welcomes all interested men and women ages 16 years and above to drop by the Mullis Street Station and make an appointment to see what we are all about. Look on line at www.sjifire.org for lots of good information. Or, you could view our Facebook page: SanJuan Island Fire & Rescue. Our phone # is (360) 378‑5334. We would be pleased to talk with you.
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